Dairy processors get ideas about ingredient and flavor trends from makers of non-dairy beverage.

Walking down the beverage aisle in a supermarket is like walking into a carnival. There’s a lot going on - the colors, the graphics, the flavors, the packaging, the reflection from the glass bottles, the clean labels of all-natural ingredients, superfruits, antioxidants and B vitamins - it’s all very inviting.

Whether it’s an exotic juice, flavored tea, an energy-filled drink or a blend of all of the above, many of today’s non-dairy beverages can give dairy processors some ideas about ingredient and flavor trends, especially as many of them leave consumers thirsty for more.

Juice with the extra jolt

Many juice brands already offer that flavorful, all-natural, functional option, but nowadays, they also deliver wholesome, reduced-calorie options in an earth-friendly, ergonomic package.

“Consumers expect more out of their beverages, and many brands are responding,” says Rick Zimmerman, senior vice president, marketing and innovation for Sunny Delight Beverages Co., Cincinnati. “On SunnyD, for example, we have reduced the sugar and calorie level by 50% over the past several years - our products now contain 60 calories per serving versus 120-130 in 2007.”

The folks at SunnyD also cut calories on other fan favorites -Tangy Original and Smooth-style juice went from 90 to 60 calories per 6.75-ounce serving. SunnyD also reformulated its Veryfine Fruit Punch to 60 calories per 8-ounce serving.

“SunnyD is now completing the national rollout of formulas across our entire line that reduce sugar and calories while maintaining the great SunnyD flavor that consumers have loved since 1964 when the brand was launched. This is important, as moms have told us they are looking for alternatives to soda, and SunnyD now has 40% fewer calories than most regular sodas,” Zimmerman adds.

Plus, SunnyD is rolling out three new flavors - orange/carrot with vitamin A, lemon/lime and raspberry lemonade - and completed a national introduction of its updated packaging, including its new gallon containers.

“Over the past two years, we have been working with retailers and consumers to find ways to make our most popular size - gallons - even better,” Zimmerman says. “Now, we are investing $70 million in capital improvements to install new lines in all four SunnyD plants. We call the new gallon our Quad Bottle because it provides important benefits in four areas.”

For example, the Quad Bottle is said to offer superior ergonomics due to its roomier handle, off-center spout and square shape for easy storage. The square bottle is also stronger, thus dramatically reducing the need for corrugate by replacing current cases with trays, Zimmerman says.

The brand’s mission is to brighten the flavor and spirit of America, he says, and the bottle’s updated graphics enhance the brand’s in-store visibility and better differentiate its flavors.

Old Orchard Brands goes beyond natural and into “simplicity,” according to Kevin Miller, vice president of marketing. “Today’s consumer wants to see just one or two ingredients on the label and ideally fewer calories per serving,” he adds.

That’s why the Sparta, Mich.-based company introduced Cranberry Naturals, a line of cranberry juice blends naturally sweetened with Truvia. Featuring just a hint of natural sugar and 70 calories per 8-ounce glass, Cranberry Naturals comes in Classic Cranberry, Cranberry Blueberry, Cranberry Pomegranate, Cranberry Grape, Cranberry Apple and Cranberry Raspberry offerings.

“It’s one thing to develop a great-tasting juice, but it’s entirely another to develop one that is low in sugar, great-tasting and all natural,” Miller says. “Busy moms and families that value better-for-you food is exactly who we cater to, and we do so by creating juices that speak to their needs.” 

In March, Naked Juice, Monrovia, Calif., launched a bevy of flavor innovations that are said to meet on taste and nutrition. For instance, Berry Veggie Machine and Orange Carrot smoothies are vegetable-rich smoothies full of essential vitamins, whereas Tropical Smoothie With Coconut Water (a juicy blast of pineapple and mango flavor) and Peach Guava Smoothie With Coconut Water are made with high-quality ingredients and boast 35% fewer calories. Both are excellent sources of vitamin C, as well as other essential vitamins.

“The introduction of Naked Juice’s two reduced-calorie smoothies provided consumers looking to achieve a weight-loss goal or maintain a healthier diet with an alternative that didn’t require a sacrifice on taste,” says Chris Malnar, marketing director. “Additionally, Naked Juice knows that when it comes to their juice drinkers, one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. That’s why we offer bottle size varieties with flavors in 10-, 15.2-, 32- and 64-ounce sizes, meeting the needs of consumers in the way that’s most convenient for them.”

Naked Juice is also in the process of transitioning to reNEWabottle packaging that’s made with 100% recycled materials, and plans to present two new reduced-calorie flavors -  Lychee and Citrus Lemongrass, Malnar says.

 R.W. Knudsen Family lightened up the juice aisle with a new lineup of sweetened with Truvia Light! Juices, available in 32-ounce bottles. They come in cranberry, pomegranate and blueberry (the latter is suggested to be blended with yogurt and fruit to create a breakfast smoothie).

Meanwhile, Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., Lakeville-Middleboro, Mass., developed Sparkling Juice drinks, which are said to provide the same taste of Ocean Spray juices, but with bubbles.

The rise and fall of the energy crisis

When it comes to beverages, it seems as though there’s a “cure” for every type of mood. Need some sleep? Take a swig of a relaxation beverage. Need to stay awake? Opt for a more amped-up liquid solution. All of this back and forth can cause even the most stable consumer to experience an energy crisis. Thankfully, many of today’s energy (and even the calming) drink providers provide an assortment of options, so that consumers can feel energized and relaxed at all times.

Bai Brands LLC is making a splash into the energy-infused waters with its low-calorie, antioxidant-rich Bai5 Congo Bear flavor, which hit store shelves in March. Made with a coffee superfruit, sweetened with Stevia and containing 5 calories per serving, this functional drink attracts consumers of all kinds.

“Bai is an attractive option for consumers who want to fortify their healthy lifestyles with a low-calorie, energy-boosting beverage that tastes great and is easy to enjoy on the go,” says Ben Weiss, founder and CEO of the Princeton, N.J., company. “The infusion of the coffeefruit provides a higher concentration of antioxidants than other superfruit ingredients commonly found in functional beverages, such as highly respected pomegranate and acai.”

Bai Brands plans to launch three new varieties packaged in 14-ounce glass bottles, scheduled to debut June 15.

Xyience, Las Vegas, maintains its stance in the energy drink sector with innovations such as its Xenergy Xtreme Fruit Punch, which made its first appearance at the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Feb. 5 at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas. The 16-ounce can features UFC welterweight fighter Dan Hardy on the front, making Xyience the official energy drink of the UFC.

“Xyience’s primary point of difference is a superior tasting product with no sugar, no calories and only two carbohydrates,” says John Lennon, president. “The energy boost comes from the B-complex vitamins contained within our product.”

While some companies provide energy-boosting beverages, others are in business to slow it down. Such is the case for Take 10 Beverages with its line of Take 10 to Relax and Take 10 to Sleep, introduced in June 2010. Designed as a natural alternative to pharmaceutical prescriptions, these “sleep aids” come in 2-ounce bottles.

“Due to the amazing popularity of energy drinks and ‘shots,’ we’ve found that retailers are used to the 2-ounce bottle size, and they’ve made appropriate space in the store to sell liquid dietary supplements. We took that approach and applied a quiet design and shoulder-less bottle so the product’s silhouette really stands out from the energy shot crowd,” says Jason Mascari, chief product officer of the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company.

Unlike those businesses that are out to produce the next energy shot or sleep-induced beverage, The FRS Co., Foster City, Calif., is on a mission to “perfect the performance of the human body,” and began doing so by offering a healthy protein drink that addresses several elements of recovery after a work out, according to Deepak Masand, vice president of marketing. “We provide carbohydrates to fuel the body, B vitamins to help the body metabolize the protein, antioxidants to fight free radicals, which attack the cells, anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling and stiffness and quercetin with amino acids to boost immunity, as well as protein to rebuild lean muscle tissue. You will find 7 grams of soluble fiber in each bottle,” Masand says.

For example, Healthy Protein is a protein-infused drink that also acts as a meal replacement or liquid meal option for dieters, while the Healthy Energy option provides healthy energy without the crash in ready-to-drink cans, resealable bottles, chews, powder and concentrate.

“As we innovate, we look to new ingredient trends such as a plant-based ingredient like wheat grass, which contains most of the vitamins and minerals needed for human maintenance. It’s a whole meal and a complete protein with excellent sources of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, sulphur, cobalt and zinc. Another highly desired ingredient is antioxidants, such as cupuacu, from the Brazilian rainforest. Cupuacu belongs to the same family of raw ingredients in chocolate called cocoa; thus offering a high flavonoid content. But unlike cocoa, it has no caffeine. This fruit also contains essential fatty acids, such as the omegas 3 and 6. This mix of antioxidants and essential fatty acids make it an ingredient to follow in the fight to maintain a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. Another ingredient of interest is spirulina. Providing an unusually high amount of complete protein, spirulina contains all essential amino acids and is between 55-77% by dry weight, depending upon the source,” Masand notes.

It's a team effort

Also in the mix are ready-to-drink teas and coconut water, the latter which is growing in popularity.

Last year, ViVa Beverages LLC introduced Marley’s Mellow Mood, a line of 100% natural, caffeine-free relaxation teas and sodas, says Paul Fuegner, chief marketing officer for the Southfield, Mich., company. Marley’s Mellow Mood is formulated with exotic valerian root, passionflower, melatonin, rose hips and lemon balm. (See New Product Review on page 25 for photos and additional information.)

“Marley’s Mellow Mood is designed to reduce stress and relieve tension, while calming the soul and easing the mind,” he adds. “Marley’s Mellow Mood is available in two varieties: lightly carbonated sodas (berry and citrus flavors) in 12-ounce aluminum cans, and ready-to-drink cold teas (green tea with honey, black tea with raspberry and passion fruit and peach flavors) in 16-ounce glass bottles.”

ViVa Beverages also introduced Quick Beverages, a line of 2-ounce liquid sleep and relaxation aids that are made from a proprietary blend of all-natural, time-tested botanical ingredients, available in a zero-calorie, sugar-free berry flavor.

SPI West Port Inc., South San Francisco, Calif., developed new varieties under the ALŌ Drink line of all-natural, aloe vera-infused drinks - ALŌ Enrich (pomegranate, cranberry and aloe) and ALŌ Appeal (pomelo, pink grapefruit, lemon and aloe). SPI West Port also launched Coco Exposed, a line of pure coconut water combined with real aloe vera pulp, juice and fruit juices, says Henry Chen, president.

“Coconut water, often referred to as nature’s sport drink, is a great natural hydrator and an excellent source of potassium, which can help prevent cramping. Each bottle of Coco Exposed contains at least 418 milligrams of potassium,” he says. Coco Exposed comes in goji berry and lychee, passion fruit and pineapple, wheatgrass, mangosteen and mango and peach and kiwi flavors.

Also in the coconut water arena is One World Enterprises LLC, dba: O.N.E. Coconut Water, Los Angeles, with its new offerings - O.N.E. Kids and O.N.E. Active.

“O.N.E. Kids is the first coconut water product made specifically for kids in a carton juice box (6.25 ounces). It is a low-calorie and sugar juice with no added sugars, colors or preservatives,” says Rodrigo Veloso, founder and CEO. “O.N.E. Active is a natural sports drink with a coconut water base.”

Meanwhile, in March, GoodBelly, Boulder, Colo., presented GoodBelly Probiotic Coconut Water, GoodBelly Tropical Green and GoodBelly StraightShot, all infused with the company’s patented probiotic strain, Lp299v, to promote digestive health, according to Alan Murray, chief executive officer.

“GoodBelly Probiotic Coconut Water is a light and refreshing coconut water with 20 billion live and active probiotic cultures of Lp299v per serving and no added sugar. GoodBelly Tropical Green is in a base of organic fruit juices with an added blend of antioxidants, vitamins and mineral-rich organic greens like spinach, spirulina and more, which are combined with billions of live and active cultures of Lp299v. Our Tropical Green drink is also lower in calories and sugar than the leading green juice brand. GoodBelly StraightShot is our most simple and economical probiotic option with 20 billion live and active probiotic cultures per serving in a delightful and gentle non-dairy base with no added sugar,” he adds.

Today’s assortment of exotic-flavored juices and drinks pack quite the punch. And, as processors continue to develop new beverages, it’s no wonder consumers are thirsty for more.

Taking One for the TEAm

Tea consumption has nearly doubled nationally over the past decade, says Penny Baker, director of marketing for Dairy Enterprises Inc./Smith Dairy Products Inc. That’s why the Orrville, Ohio-based processor introduced new tea flavors - diet tea with lemon, 50/50 tea lemonade blend and peach tea. Each flavor contains no preservatives, is made with natural flavorings and comes in half-gallon bottles. “These flavors round out our tea line that already includes a Southern Style sweet tea, our best seller, and tea with lemon,” Baker notes.

“The size and potential growth of the beverage market provides plenty of opportunity for innovation in both product and packaging, as well as higher profit margin items,” she adds. “Local and artisan products are popular in other beverage segments (beer, for example). Why not in the non-dairy segment, as well?”

Coffee In a Can

Seattle’s Best Coffee, a division of Starbucks Corp., Seattle, launched iced canned lattes as part of its “Anywhere Great Coffee is Needed” campaign. The line includes Iced, Iced Vanilla and Iced Mocha latte options housed in 9.5-ounce cans with 130 calories each.

To beat the summer heat, it also introduced Cookie Dough JavaKula blended ice coffee, which is made with cold brewed coffee and a combination of cookie dough syrup and white chocolate sauce, topped with a chocolate baton, whipped cream and chocolate chip cookie crumbles.

Bottled Water Brands Undergo Packaging Makeover

As part of its ongoing effort to reduce its carbon footprint, Danone Waters of America redesigned its 1.5-liter evian bottle. The new option is made of up to 50% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET), remains 100% recyclable, uses 11% less plastic and reduces the company’s ecological impact by 32%. The White Plains, N.Y., company installed an environmental policy that aims to reduced CO2 emissions by 40% through the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Evamor Products Inc., a subsidiary of Wm. B. Reily & Co., Covington, La., revamped the logo, label and packaging of its Natural Artesian Water line with the help of flowdesign, a Northville, Mich.-based packaging design consultant. The new logo, for instance, features a gray ball balancing on a gray horizontal plane to represent the 8.8 pH balance. (Evamor uses water from a rare underground aquifer that’s naturally infused with alkaline). The brand name appears in a white font on a dark blue background and the bottle itself appears in an hourglass-shape style for easier gripping.

Flax Milk Hits Store Shelves

Flax USA Inc., a fifth-generation family farm located in Goodrich, N.D., introduced Flax Milk, available nationwide in Original and Vanilla flavors, boasting 60 and 50 calories per serving, respectively. The benefits of flax milk include 1,100 milligrams of omegas per 8-ounce serving, which is as much calcium as dairy milk, vitamin D2 and vitamin B12 combined, it’s all-natural and soy-, lactose- and gluten-free, contains zero cholesterol and saturated fat and boasts a 22-month shelf life.

“[Flax milk] is an easy way to get your omegas and calcium without the calories,” says Stephanie Sonju Stober, owner and president. “Enjoy it on cereal, drink it by the glass and add to smoothies, dip cookies in it, etc.”

10 Flavor Trends & Label Claims in Non-dairy Beverages

1.    Calorie reduction
2.    Orange-carrot combinations
3.    Superfruit formulas
4.    Use of coconut water
5.    “No-sugar added” claims
6.    Sweetening with stevia
7.    All natural
8.    Plant-based ingredients (such as wheat grass)
9.    Relaxation properties
10.    Protein-infused